The week in digital transformation: Retail reinvented, flexible working & the “key” to DT


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Welcome to a new regular round-up on Econsultancy, where we’ll be collecting together the most interesting developments over the past week from the world of digital transformation.

Despite being the talk of the industry, digital transformation is a difficult concept to nail down. What does it consist of? Is there a correct way to carry it out? Can you ever be finished?

The main thing that everyone agrees on is that it looks different for every organisation that undergoes it. So what better way to build a picture of what’s happening in digital transformation than by rounding up a range of stories from across various industries and from different parts of the globe?

Let’s dive on in.

TUI embraces flexible working

TTG Media reports this week that travel operator TUI has embraced flexible working for its employees as part of a “company-wide digital revolution” that will establish a “results-driven culture” within the company.

TUI has published its vision for digital transformation in a paper entitled “newWork@Tui”, signed off jointly by the company’s Group Works Council and Executive Board. The paper focuses particularly on opportunities for TUI’s employees in the midst of digital transformation, including a better work/life balance, the “freedom to work from anywhere”, and the opportunity to undergo training and development programmes to improve their digital skills.

While we’ve yet to see what results come from TUI’s programme of digital transformation, it’s clear that TUI believes in the importance of culture to digital transformation, and is making its employees the starting point for wider changes throughout the business.

What is the “key” to digital transformation?

Is there such a thing as a “key” to digital transformation? While most would probably agree that digital transformation depends on a number of different elements for success, the idea of one, all-important element with the potential to “unlock” digital transformation is a compelling one.

The seductiveness of the idea explains why so many articles are published claiming that this or that is the “key” to digital transformation. In this week alone, three articles have appeared highlighting the supposed “key” to digital transformation in different sectors:

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1. Data literacy: The key to digital transformation in government

Nextgov, a U.S. publication focusing on the intersection of government and technology, ran an article this week highlighting the importance of data literacy to government digital transformation.

“The amount of data collected by the federal government is reaching almost unfathomable levels,” the article begins, before going on to ask the question, “What good is data if you can’t mine it for gold?”

The article highlights the chronic shortage of workers in U.S. government who currently have the right skills to support the execution of the government’s Federal Data Strategy, noting that employees don’t need to be fully-fledged data scientists to be data literate.

“By training existing staff with critical data analysis skills,” the article argues, “federal agencies can not only overcome immediate talent shortages but also foster a thriving data-driven culture with a more robust and skilled workforce.”

2. Automation: The key to digital transformation in the maritime industry

Meanwhile, the Maritime Journal has a piece focusing on the importance of automation to digital transformation within the maritime industry.

While a little dense with technical information, the article is an interesting glimpse into digital transformation in an industry it’s fair to say we don’t hear from all that much (in the context of digital transformation or otherwise). But digital transformation affects every industry, and the maritime industry is no exception.

“Service, data connectivity, security, operational cost reduction – digital transformation means many different things, but automation is always the key,” writes the article’s author, before going on to profile the data and automation improvements being pioneered by a number of companies in the space.

3. Inventory management: The key to digital transformation in brick and mortar retail

The challenges of digital transformation in the retail sector are often talked about, but most focus on the opportunity and threat posed by ecommerce, and the need for retailers to adopt omnichannel strategies that integrate digital into their brick and mortar offering in order to survive.

An article from MH&L News this week takes a different angle, focusing on the need for retailers to adopt inventory tools that use IoT and AI in order to remain competitive in the digital age.

Using RFID technology to inventory stock. Image: Nordic ID via Flickr, made available under CC BY-ND 2.0

“With the increasing pressure of achieving optimal operational efficiency within physical stores, retailers must be able to achieve near-perfect inventory accuracy,” writes the article author. The article goes on to explore the use of RFID technology within retail to manage inventory, boosting customer satisfaction and sales velocity, and leading to increased revenues.

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Meanwhile in shelf-based retail environments such as supermarkets, technologies such as computer vision, robots and AI promise to save on labour costs, improve the customer experience and drive sales, putting physical retailers in a position to compete both with rivals in ecommerce and with rivals in the brick and mortar sector.

A luxury retail giant reinvents itself

Luxury retailer Chalhoub Group is the distributor of some of the biggest names in high-end fashion. Recently, it launched a joint venture with Farfetch, an international online fashion marketplace, in a bid to revitalise its faltering digital strategy.

Arabian Business takes an in-depth look at Chalhoub’s “900-day sprint towards digital transformation”, and how the company set out to transform itself into an omni-channel retailer, with the customer at the centre of everything it does.

Given that Chalhoub sits at the intersection of fashion and retail, its digital transformation had to tackle challenges in both sectors, all within the context of a Middle Eastern market that is shifting from “abundance” to “rationalisation”.

The article features an interview with Chalhoub Group CEO Patrick Chalhoub, who is fairly candid about some of the problems the company encountered on the path to digital transformation and the lessons learned from them, making this a piece well worth reading.

The digital transformation of Coventry University

Gigabit Magazine has an intriguing inside account this week of digital transformation in the education sector: the story of how Coventry University earned its stripes as one of the top modern universities in the UK.

In an interview with Simon Launder, a military veteran turned Deputy Chief Digital Information Officer who spearheaded the transformation, Gigabit delves into the mindset and process that enabled Coventry University to develop an “agile and dynamic” environment, engage with students in innovative ways, and turn itself into a hub for ed-tech (education technology).

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Some notable takeaways from the story are the integral role played by IT – Gigabit reports that “IT now enjoys a position at the Coventry University Group’s top table when it comes to strategic decision making” – the top-down approach taken to digital transformation, and the diverse backgrounds of those responsible for leading the charge.

Along with Launder (who served in the military for 11 years before leading the rebuild of Iraq’s post-war banking network) Coventry employed Steve Humber, a former Olympic Speed Skater, as Chief Digital Information Officer – perhaps proving the value of bringing together differing skillsets to achieve digital transformation.

Australia and New Zealand: The struggle to embrace digital transformation

IT Brief reports on a new piece of research released yesterday which reveals that businesses in Australia and New Zealand are “trailing behind” their global counterparts in the bid to embrace digital transformation.

The report found that only 17% of businesses in Australia and New Zealand are identified as “visionaries” – companies that “understand digital is central to the success of future endeavours” – compared with a global average of 22%.

According to the report, the main stumbling blocks experienced by AU and NZ businesses are internal rather than external, with two-fifths (38%) of the senior decision makers polled citing organisational silos as a primary challenge, along with hiring digital natives and building digital skillsets (38%).

Among the various sectors surveyed, the public sector, healthcare and telecommunications/utilities perceived themselves to be furthest behind global peers, with 50% of public service organisations feeling that their digital maturity lagged behind global peers, and only 7% reporting being ahead. Within healthcare and telecommunications, numbers were slightly more optimistic, but still only 19-20% of business leaders reported digital maturity on a par with or ahead of their global counterparts.

For more tales of digital transformation, visit the Festival of Marketing 2018, October 10-11, London.


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